The Mercer men’s basketball team added two more wins to their season record after a 68-55 victory against rival Florida Gulf Coast and an 87-49 domination over Stetson University. The Bears also gained a 90-77 win against East Tennessee State on Friday to give them an 18-5 overall record.
On Jan. 23, hundreds of fans filled Hawkins Arena to see the sold-out rivalry game between the Bears and FGCU Eagles.
Dressed in all black from head-to-toe, Junior Lauren Williams was eager to support the Mercer Bears in their blackout game against the Eagles. Williams anticipated a packed stadium and made sure to get her ticket early. “Florida Gulf Coast is pretty much our biggest rival, and I just had to be there,” said Williams. “I knew it was going to be a great game. I love cheering Mercer on, and I’m so excited that we kicked the Eagles’ butts.”
Mercer’s sixth-straight win against the Eagles put the team in first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings, while knocking FGCU a game behind the Bears.
Seniors Daniel Coursey and Langston Hall both recorded double-double efforts to help assist in the Bears’ win.
Coursey accumulated his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds in addition to four blocks and three steals, raising his career block total to 176 and surpassing the program career record. Coursey also scored his 800th point in the win against the Eagles.
“It feels great to finally earn that record. It’s something that I really wanted to achieve this year personally,” Coursey said.
Hall gained a career-high 11 assists and hit 18 points. His performance added to Mercer outshooting FGCU 41.4-35 percent to make it the sixth-straight game the Bears have outshot its opponent.
The Bears and the Eagles were neck and neck at the start of the game. Ike Nwamu’s back to back dunks, and Coursey’s 7-0 run along with Hall’s three quick assists helped push Mercer ahead.
The Eagles came back and tied the game 17-17, but lost control after a three-pointer by Darious Moten sparked a 10-2 charge to put Mercer ahead 34-23 late in the half.
With 6:47 left in the last half, Mercer led the game by 20 points with a 59-39 score. FGCU attempted to come back, but fell short, only earning another 16 points in the remainder of the game.
The victory against FGCU was a big win for the Bears. Coursey admits that they were anxious before the game, but gaining the win boosted their morale. “Beating Gulf Coast was huge for our team’s confidence. We were always worried about them in the back of our mind, and it helped us realize we can beat anyone we want to.”
Although hard work plays into Mercer’s performance as a team, support from their fans also has a positive effect on the team’s outcome. “I think it was one of the most fun games I have played at Mercer. The environment was unbelievable, and it played a big part in helping us win,” Coursey said. “They gave everyone a ton of energy when we needed it.”
Senior Bud Thomas tallied nine points with three rebounds and a steal. As a team, Mercer loaded up a season high of 10 steals and forced 15 turnovers on FGCU.
The Bears 34-27 scoring edge in the second half marked the 18th time in 21 games this season that Mercer has outscored its opponent in the last 20 minutes of play.